I am curious as to whether any law school offers a (seminar?) course on the law and regulation of central banking, either specifically on the Fed in US domestic law or else something like “comparative central banking” in the transnational law curriculum. I’d be interested in responses as to courses, syllabi, reading, and course topics. Serious responses please; no rants or off topic responses. (Let me add that I don’t mean exactly what typically features in the banking course, which is, in my experience, less about the law governing central banking than the legal mechanisms by which the central bank interacts with the rest of the banking and financial services sector. They are not quite the same thing.)
The legal powers of the Fed – and their limits, regulatory, statutory, and Constitutional – are obviously a question of importance today. The financial crisis, the response, and the continuing unemployment rate make the question of the Fed’s mandate, independence, and limits germane in a way that has only rarely been true in the economic history of the US since creation of the Federal Reserve. Consider one of the latest arguments – will the Fed move to monetize the fisc, meaning the fiscal deficits of states and municipalities, as a source of – not liquidity of last resort – but instead as a provider of solvency? A George Will column expressed the concern, set against public pension issues, this way:
People seeking backdoor bailouts hope that the fourth branch of government, a.k.a. Ben Bernanke, will declare an emergency power for the Federal Reserve to buy municipal bonds to lower localities’ borrowing costs. This political act might mitigate one crisis by creating a larger one – the Fed’s forfeiture of its independence.
Will obviously has a side in this debate, but that is not what interests me; it is that the law governing central banking is up for serious debate in a way that is historically not often true. Please leave aside any comments as to the policies involved, good or bad. I am interested in understanding the underlying sources of law and regulation at issue here. If the Fed were so to act, are there legal limits on the ability of the Fed to act in this way – and does it matter one way or another, as a matter of law, if Congress has declined to provide a fiscal bailout?
I am also particularly interested in anything offered somewhere in the law school curriculum on comparative central banking, in universities here in the US or elsewhere. Again, same interest in curricula, syllabi, readings, etc.
Update: Thanks for the responses below, they are very helpful, and I’ll be in touch with Eric and some others mentioned below. I’ve deleted some comments that are not relevant to my inquiry; I’d like the comment thread to be useful to people who are searching for the same materials I mention in the post, and don’t want other things there. Also, I should add that I’m not actually contemplating teaching a class on this topic – I don’t know whether there is enough material for a course on the law of the Fed or not, although I do think that a comparative central banking course surely offers sufficient materials. Rather, I would like to know more about the area substantively, and this seemed like an easy way in. As well as helpful to others looking for materials in the field. Thanks everyone.